How to keep the soil healthy and productive

Soil is a living organism that produces 95% of food, and maintaining its health is a continuous process. As plants grow, nutrients are removed from the soil, and they need to be replenished fairly regularly with compost and organic fertilizers.

Soil types

Healthy soil allows plants to grow without diseases and pests, without the need for additional additives. Planting and care can be in vain if the soil fertility is not at the proper level.

The soil provides plants with important nutrients, water and air they need for development. But each plot of land has its own chemical composition of the soil: a mixture of minerals, organic and inorganic substances, which largely determines which crops   it can be successfully grown.

Determining the type of soil is important to support healthy plant growth.

Soil type

They are divided into several types: sandy, silty, clay or loam. Each type has its own characteristics and advantages.

Sandy soil is light, dry, and low in nutrients. This soil has a fast drainage system and is easy to work with. The particles do not stick together, even when they are wet.

In spring, such soil warms up faster than clay, but dries up in summer, and suffers from a lack of nutrients that are washed away by rain before the plant can use them. For this reason, sandy soils are usually poor in nutrients, and are acidic.

Advantages and disadvantages of sandy soils:

  • they warm up quickly in spring;
  • they dry quickly in summer;
  • nutrients are often washed out, especially during rain;
  • these are often acidic soils.

The addition of organic substances will help to retain nutrients and water in the soil.

Silt soils are intermediate between sandy and clay. They are considered the most difficult to handle, and often take longer to warm up in the spring. Compaction and cracking are characteristic of them, as well as for clay soils. They are usually quite dense, have relatively poor drainage, but are usually more fertile than sandy or clay soils. It is difficult for plant roots to break through such a ground. It tends to form a crust, but when wet, it is easy to roll it in the palm of your hand.

Advantages and disadvantages of silty soils:

  • retain nutrients and water better than sandy ones;
  • they are easier to work with than clay ones;
  • have a greater tendency to crust formation.

Additional information! When wet, avoid working with silty soil to reduce its compaction. Using compost, you can increase the chemicals of the soil.

Clay soil, unlike sandy soil, retains nutrients much longer, they are not washed out. Because these soils retain water, they take longer to warm up and dry out.

Clay soil

During dry periods in summer, they can become hard as a stone and crack. During wet periods, they are sticky and practically unsuitable for processing.

Advantages and disadvantages of clay soils:

  • retain nutrients, so plants get the necessary nutrition;
  • suitable for growing plants that require a lot of water;
  • slowly warm up in spring;
  • easily compacted;
  • usually little microbial activity;
  • may be alkaline.

The quality of this soil can be improved by adding compost and products rich in soil microbes.

Loamy soil contains sandy, clay and silty particles. It is a fertile, well-drained, easy-to-cultivate and rich in organic substances land. Clay and silt particles retain moisture, and sand improves drainage. Loamy soils do not dry out in summer, and are not waterlogged in winter.

Advantages of loamy soils:

  • drought-resistant;
  • warms up faster in spring;
  • retain nutrients, making the soil fertile;
  • good infiltration of air and water.

Despite the fact that loamy soils are ideal for growing crops, it is also necessary to take care of them in order to maintain or improve their health. The addition of products rich in soil microbes creates a soil ecosystem.

Ideal soil

Soils rich in organic matter contain more air and water, and yield higher yields than those with a low nutrient content.

  • good soil is crumbly;
  • has a lot of organic substances;
  • healthy soil pH.
Ideal soil

Improving soil fertility

Whatever type of soil it is, it can be improved by adding organic substances to it. Fertilizers provide a quick-access source of nutrients. The introduction of compost, aged manure, straw or mown grass into the upper 10 cm of the earth, the use of cover crops, and the restriction of tillage increase and preserve fertility.

Additional information!  The addition of organic matter will help sandy soil retain moisture and nutrients, and heavy clay will be easier to drain.

The alternation of different crops is designed to obtain higher yields by replenishing the soil with nutrients and disrupting the cycles of diseases and pests.

The use of mulch reduces the compaction of clay soil from heavy rains. prevents it from drying out and cracking. Organic mulch, such as straw or crushed leaves, encourages worms and other soil organisms to live under it, aerating the soil.

Organic mulch

Compost loosens clay soil, allows water to seep through it faster, while at the same time retaining enough moisture.

To improve the sandy soil, well-rotted manure or ready-made compost is added every year. Mulch around plants with leaves, wood chips, bark, hay or straw. Mulch retains moisture and cools the soil. Cover crops or green fertilizers are grown.

To change the muddy soil, organic substances are added every year. The more they dig the earth, the more they risk destroying its structure. To avoid surface crust, refrain from unnecessary tillage and walking on it. The more compacted it becomes, the more difficult it is for air, water and nutrients to pass through.

Soil pH

The pH level indicates the relative acidity of the soil or its alkalinity.

Most of the essential plant nutrients are soluble at pH levels between 6.5 and 6.8, so many plants grow best in this range. If the pH of the soil is much higher or lower, plant roots cannot absorb the nutrients they need.

To improve fertility, the pH should be in the range from 6.5 to 6.8. It is gradually changed during one or two growing seasons, and then maintained every year. The use of organic matter helps to mitigate the pH imbalance.

If the soil is too acidic for plants, you need to alkalize it by adding limestone powder around the base of the plants.

Wood ash will also increase the pH. It acts faster than limestone and contains potassium and trace elements. If you add too much wood ash, you can dramatically change the pH and cause an imbalance of nutrients.

If the soil is alkaline and the index is higher than 6.8, it is necessary to acidify the soil by adding ground sulfur. You can also use natural acidic organic materials such as needles, sawdust, peat moss and oak leaves.

Cover crops

Cover crops are grown to protect and enrich the soil. They are known as “green fertilizer”, which are used as nutrients at the end of the growth cycle.

Cover crops

The cover culture protects the land from water and wind erosion. they capture excess nitrogen and reduce its leaching into groundwater. Some plants with deep roots can extract nutrients from deeper layers of soil and release them closer to the surface, making them more accessible to subsequent crops.

The cover crop is sown in the autumn after the harvest is harvested. Next spring, the plants are dug into the soil, adding more organic substances.

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